How a bad social networking policy can bite you in the rear

Here’s a cautionary tale from the banking world, as reported at The Financial Brand Bank’s Social Media Policy Says Snitch & Spy on Your Friends or You’re Fired.

The story: Commonwealth Bank, a large multinational bank, recently made news with a wacko, paranoid social media policy for its employees. It threatens “serious disciplinary action which may include termination” for all kinds of online activities that the company might deem as hurting the company. They are also required to spy on and persecute the online activities of their friends.

(You can read the policy here.)

Guess what: there’s been a backlash. Everyone who pays attention to such things hates Commonwealth and doesn’t hesitate to talk about it on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, or anyplace else.

This is an extreme case, but a lot of companies and nonprofits have weird, restrictive, unrealistic policies for social media.

They can no more stop these things than the current domino-row of Middle Eastern dictators can. And trying only makes it worse.

So if you’re using HR policy, lawyers, and restrictions to protect yourself online, it’s not going to work. And you stand a good chance of really hurting yourself and your reputation. You have so much more to gain by letting the flowers bloom that are going to bloom anyway.

Thanks to @spurdave for the tip.


Comments

4 responses to “How a bad social networking policy can bite you in the rear”

  1. Luke Ritchie Avatar
    Luke Ritchie

    Good post and a fair point. Companies are not able to control their employees’ use of social networking, micro blogs and other online tools outside of work hours. The same issue recently came up involving ‘hurtful words’ made by a pupil about a teacher in the US; yet again, this action took place in the student’s own personal time.
    However, employees should take onboard that social networking sites are often available to the public. Information that is sensitive, posted on a social network, could be considered breaching any contractual agreements made between employer and employee, surely?
    And also, any negative comments made, if not made under an alias, can be traced back to the employee should the company look into it…and not all employers are understanding.
    Interestingly enough, today’s mashable update has the excellent Maria Ogneva’s guide for how companies and brands can deal with negative publicity: http://on.mash.to/eM8MzG

  2. Luke Ritchie Avatar
    Luke Ritchie

    Good post and a fair point. Companies are not able to control their employees’ use of social networking, micro blogs and other online tools outside of work hours. The same issue recently came up involving ‘hurtful words’ made by a pupil about a teacher in the US; yet again, this action took place in the student’s own personal time.
    However, employees should take onboard that social networking sites are often available to the public. Information that is sensitive, posted on a social network, could be considered breaching any contractual agreements made between employer and employee, surely?
    And also, any negative comments made, if not made under an alias, can be traced back to the employee should the company look into it…and not all employers are understanding.
    Interestingly enough, today’s mashable update has the excellent Maria Ogneva’s guide for how companies and brands can deal with negative publicity: http://on.mash.to/eM8MzG

  3. Good article, Jeff, and good point, Luke. Even if employees may technically be breaching contractual agreements, they can do a ton of damage on social media channels that have viral effects after they’re terminated from the job. I hope employers start to realize that more!
    There are tools out there to help organizations better monitor and manage their brands in the social media space. An example is doing social network analysis with data visualization technology, which helps elucidate broad behavioral patterns. This allows organizations to proactively react to trends, rather than going after individuals.
    Stella Lau

  4. Good article, Jeff, and good point, Luke. Even if employees may technically be breaching contractual agreements, they can do a ton of damage on social media channels that have viral effects after they’re terminated from the job. I hope employers start to realize that more!
    There are tools out there to help organizations better monitor and manage their brands in the social media space. An example is doing social network analysis with data visualization technology, which helps elucidate broad behavioral patterns. This allows organizations to proactively react to trends, rather than going after individuals.
    Stella Lau

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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